Council extends bedroom tax help

Councillors have extended support to those they say are most in need due to recent Westminster welfare reforms by working in partnership with Ayr Housing Aid Centre.

The council say a number of welfare reforms have been introduced since 1 April 2013, which have impacted on the financies of many families and individuals.

These include under occupancy rules for those on housing benefits and the introduction of a benefits cap.

A helping hand, offering practical and financial help to tenants in South Ayrshire, will continue to be extended by the council, particularly for those experiencing difficult in paying their rent.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “We have increased our support to Ayr Housing Aid by £28,000 which will enable them to recruit a Tenant Welfare Reform Advisor.

“Working in partnership with Ayr Housing Aid Centre we have offered assistance to over 1,100 tenants affected by under occupancy and we’ve given additional funding to Ayr Housing Aid to increase the support available.”

Councillors agreed that tenants currently in receipt of both Housing Benefit and Discretionery Housing Payments (DHP) (which are intended to provide short-term financial assistance to help with housing costs for those who receive housing benefit).

They agreed that those who have an income will benefit from a much simpler application process, will not need to reapply for the DHP payment at the end of March 2014 and will continue to receive payments for up to a further 12 months.

Councillors also extended the rent arrears policy approved in April 2013. This stated that where a tenant is taking all reasonable steps to meet their rent payments and their circumstances have changed as a result of welfare reform size criteria, eviction action would not be pursued.

Councillor Philip Saxton, South Ayrshire Council’s Portfolio Holder for Housing said: “We’re fully committed to helping anyone in need of support or assistance in paying their rent.

“Support ranges from offering advice and support by discussing finances and budgeting, to looking at methods of payment, the ability to pay and housing options.

“However there are still 261 tenants who may be entitled to additional help who have not engaged with us. If you are one of them please contact the Council on 0300 123 0900 or Ayr Housing Aid on 01292 288111.

“Our message is simple – if you’re experiencing financial difficulty, please contact us as soon as possible. Please get in touch, not in debt.”

You can also drop into one of the Council’s five Customer Service Centres in Ayr, Girvan, Maybole, Prestwick or Troon where you can discuss your situation confidentially.